(St. Charles, MO) -- Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls faced off for yet another primary debate Monday, where they vowed, as they normally do on the campaign trail, to cut spending and repeal the president's signature health care law.
All three Republican candidates -- Sarah Steelman, John Brunner, and Todd Akin -- took the stage at Lindenwood University in St. Charles Monday night to criticize their Democratic rival, Sen. Claire McCaskill, all while hardly jabbing each other on stage.
All three candidates said that they, of course, support repealing the president's health care law, permanently extending the Bush-era tax cuts on all income brackets, and seeking solvency in Social Security by changing benefits for future seniors, all while maintaining benefits for current seniors.
The candidates also said they support private market plans for programs like Social Security. Steelman explicitly cited private accounts, while Brunner said he would support "choice" in the Social Security system. Akin, too, proclaimed support for less government involvement in the market.
The McCaskill campaign pounced on the issue soon after the debate. In a statement soon after the final question was asked, McCaskill spokesman Erik Dorey called the trio supports an "extreme proposal to leave missouri seniors at Wall Street's mercy.
"Greedy, reckless behavior on Wall Street is what brought the American economy to the brink of collapse just three years ago," he said, "and Missouri's families are rightfully anxious about Todd Akin, Sarah Steelman, and John Brunner's efforts to leave Missouri's seniors at the mercy of reckless Wall Street speculators."
Off stage, the heat within the Republcian primary has risen exponentionally in recent weeks. Last week, Brunner launched a statewide television ad criticizing both of his rivals for their previous votes on debt spending and earmarks. At the time, both the Akin and Steelman campaigns deflected the jabs in the ad -- both saying they had supported balanced budgets in the past.
In interviews after the debate, both candidates, again, took shots at Brunner for his ad. Steelman said Brunner's latest ad, which criticizes her for supporting legislation to pay for state infrastructure projects with state bonds in an attempt to show her as a debt increaser, is "totally untrue."
"We use bonds as a tool to leverage assets to build highways and tools," Steelman said. "We do so in a very conservative matter."
Steelman, pointing to a Moody's Analytics report on Brunner's financing of projects with debt during his time as CEO of Vi-Jon, said it was in fact Brunner who used "junk bonds" to fill spending gaps and called on him to "open the books" of Vi-Jon's finances.
Brunner, speaking with reporters after the debate, said Steelman is "misinformed" about the kind of financing his business used, and added that businesses can be held to a different standard than the federal government.
"The difference in government and private business is accountability and risk," Brunner said. "If I made the wrong decision, I was held accountable, and I assumed the risk."
"The problem with too many elected officials, they're awfully free in handling other people's money," he added.
Monday's debate was hosted by St. Louis conservative talk radio satiation 97.1 and Missouri News Horizon.